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27.04.2005 General News

Amu: The inconsistent revolutionary - Rev Laryea

By GNA

Accra, April 27, GNA - The Reverend Philip Laryea, a Theologian, on Tuesday described the great ethnomusicologist, Dr Ephraim Amu as an inconsistent revolutionary, who stood for simplicity in Christian worship, yet "what he vouched for was far from simple."

He said Amu was ambiguous and inconsistent, while he suggested the adaptation of African tradition and culture such as music, drumming and dancing into the Christian worship; he greatly abhorred dancing in any form.

"To Amu traditional music, dancing and drumming stir the emotions and as such not conducive to Christian worship since according to the ethnomusicologist emotionalism is destructive of temperance, self-discipline, solemnity, quiet mediation and other values he considered necessary for spiritual growth," Rev Laryea stated.

"Amu abhorred anything that in his view tend to evoke the emotions, consequently he was concerned that converts to the Christian faith must be given sound teaching devoid of emotionalism," Rev Laryea stated at the Seventh "Ephraim Amu Memorial Lectures" in Accra.

The lectures was organised by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with International Centre for African Music and Dance, University of Ghana, on the theme: "Theological Landmarks in the Life and Thought of Ephraim Amu."

It was to throw light on Dr Amu's contribution as a Christian thinker, his career and legacy and to explain the nature and significance of his theological landmarks and musical language to enable the present generations to draw inspirations from his rich experience.

Rev Laryea, who is a Research Fellow of the Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre for Mission Research and Applied Theology based at Akropong-Akwapim, explained that the only aspect of African dance that was acceptable to Tata Amu was the gesticulations that often accompanied dancing.

To Amu the litmus test for incorporating any traditional rituals and practices into Christian worship was whether such practices aided calm reasoning or excited human emotions. He was of the view that the depth of one's faith in God was dependent on the extent to which one allowed reason and not emotions to govern one's actions.

Quoting from Rudolf Otto's seminal work published in the 20th century, that argued that "human reason alone is not capable of comprehending transcendence and that the non-rational element, or what he chose to call the numinous of the wholly other in religious experience must also be taken into account".

He stressed: "The Church's inability to recognise the value of the emotional content of the religious life led to a one-sidedly intellectualistic and rationalistic interpretation of the idea of God." Rev Laryea said Otto's publication provided the framework within which to assess Tata Amu's ideas on worship.

In the first place, he said, "it is difficult to see how we can get rid of human emotions in worship, expression of joy occasioned by music and song is emotional, and so is dancing".

Rev Laryea said to argue; therefore, "that emotions should be kept out of worship is to deny people the means of expressing their humanity.

"It is dangerous to allow emotions to control what people do and say, it is equally dangerous to allow reason alone to govern human actions...both are needed in worship, but they stand the danger of being corrupted without the Spirit of God.

"Unfortunately Tata Amu was not clear on his views on the place and role of the Spirit in Christian worship," Rev Laryea stated. Rev Laryea also said, even though, Dr Amu advocated for clarity and straightforward simplicity in Christian practices, "yet he found ceremonies such as the ordination of ministers and consecration of church office holders too simple".

In spite of the inconsistencies and ambiguities that characterised Dr Amu's attempt to adapt African traditional practices and notions to Christian thought, according to Rev Laryea, Tata Amu should still be given the credit for being one of the first theologians to attempt such a venture.

The Lecture was interwoven with harmonious coral music from the Amu collections which included "Odomankoma Oboadee"; "Yaanom Abibirimma"; "Asem yi di ka"; "Kasakyerew ho nimdefo, mo"; "Agya fa firi won" and "Asomdwee mu na meko makoda" by the choir of the Music Department of University of Education Winneba and Immanuel Presbyterian Church Choir at Madina.

Professor Kwame Gyekye, Vice President of the Academy, chaired the Lecture, which was attended by the Amu Family of Peki Avetile, people from Academia, musicians, students and a cross section of the public. As part of the Lectures, an exhibition of books, musical instruments, typewriters used by Amu were displayed at the forecourt of the Christ the Kings Parish Hall venue for the Lecture.

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